I said it again this month at the Melrose Public Library program during a music therapy session.
I love looking out at all the babies and toddlers who came unsuspectingly. I begin to play my guitar and they just stare at me. It is partially a look of panic, “Who are you?”” And partially a look of disbelief, “You want me to do to what?” It is also a look of intrigue and confusion. But I do know, and I’m sure of this based on my years of music therapy experience, that these looks are not looks of boredom!
I have to admit that it did take me a long time to come to this realization. I used to think it was just me and that I was boring them to death.
I remember, my very first session with preschoolers for my music therapy internship. The students were brought down to the music room for thirty minutes. I started with the hello song I had prepared. I was petrified when I realized that they were all staring back at me with that deer in the headlights look. I sang the song two times and then, because they obviously didn’t like that one, I quickly transitioned to another song. The second song was received with those same empty stares. As was the third, and the fourth, and the fifth, the sixth, seventh, eighth and even the ninth. That’s right! I sang nine songs in that first thirty-minute music therapy session! No wonder they were confused. I never gave them a chance to catch up with me!
It took me years of experience and learning about early childhood development and music, but now I know that if I’m still getting that deer in the headlights look, I need to do the song again, and again, and again, until the young children who are participating in my music groups are no longer in panic mode. Once their facial expressions relax and they begin to look at me with the expression that says, “Oh, okay…tell me more,” then I know we are ready for more music making. I assure you, as adults we will tire of a song much more quickly than our babies will. But our babies are not bored!
So the next time you start singing a new song with your baby, sing it again and again and again until they start to get it. Never do what I once did and run through 9 songs in 30 minutes! Instead, give your child a chance to really soak it all up and experience the music. And then when you are bored, sing it three more times!